About a year and a half ago, Bruce Nickolson agreed to take on a project that even the most civic-minded of us might turn down for the sake of our own sanity.
He volunteered to assist the Veterans Plaza team by creating a plan, compiling the data and managing the process of engraving the names of the veterans, both living and dead, on the brass bench plaques, pavers and seating cubes that define the plaza.
To put that in perspective, it mean engraving the names, services, rates, ranks, years served, wars of men and women on t 22 brass plaques on metal benches, the 32 faces of the seating cubes, and the 230 paver stones.
“I’m a detail kind of person,” Bruce admits, “I like working with spread sheets and numbers. This project took a lot of that and it took a lot of personal contact, too. Especially on the pavers.”
The stone paver process started with a form that the purchaser filled out describing what he or she wanted engraved on the stone. Name, Service, Rate or Rank, War and Years served. It was his responsibility to make sure everything would fit and completed in accordance with the donors wishes.
To his credit, and his meticulous attention to details, the engraving process came off with perfection.
Bruce has experience in getting things done right. His 37-year career in the Navy spanned the era from the Korean Conflict to the war in Vietnam. During much of that time he served as an enlisted flight engineer with a transport squadron of C118 Liftmaster aircraft that provided logistics support, freight and personnel to submarines and carriers throughout the world. His final assignment was serving as a Navy Command Master Chief for two aviation squadrons.
Bruce has a lot of stories to tell about his time in the service, but one of his more memorable flights was a flight from Vietnam to Hawaii where he delivered an unusual cargo.
“In Vietnam, porpoises were trained to do reconnaissance for suspicious river activity,” he recalls. “We were assigned to fly seven porpoises and their handlers to the Kaneohe Bay Marine Air Station on Oahu for R &R.”
“Hold on a minute, Bruce. Do you mean Rest & Relaxation for the porpoises?” I asked.
“That’s right,” he answered. “We had to place two layers of plywood to the cabin floor and loaded seven tanks and seven porpoises. Each one had its own handler and if the porpoises got restless the handlers would calm them down.”
Apparently what happened at Kaneohe stayed in Kaneohe. And the porpoises returned to the war in Vietnam rested and relaxed. Some sporting new tattoos.
Bruce is looking forward to the POW/MIA observances at the Edmonds Veterans Plaza on Sept. 15, both for the recognition it gives to those who were prisoners of war and those whose remains have yet to be found, but also because the final 27 pavers have been completed and are ready to be installed.
He can now return to his favorite hobby, restoring older cars. An additional note, it was Bruce who convinced the City Council to allow a car show on the weekend following Labor Day Labor Day each year. (This year’s show is this Sunday, Sept. 10.)
Bruce and his wife Elaine are long-time residents of Edmonds. They met at the old Edmonds High School, (now the Edmonds Center for the Arts), fell in love and have been married 62 years. These days they’re happily spending their kids’ inheritance.
— By Richard Simmons, VFW Post 8870